Dallas Mavericks: Chinese Hoops Star Yi Jianlian Signs with the Mavs

Tom LeonardContributor IIIJanuary 8, 2012

NEW YORK CITY, NY - AUGUST 12: Yi Jianlian of the Chinese Men's Basketball team is interviewed during the World Basketball Festival Community Morning at Radio City Music Hall on August 12, 2010 in New York, New York.  (Photo by Marc Lecureuil/Getty Images for Nike)
Marc Lecureuil/Getty Images

Yi Jianlian officially signed a one-year deal with the Mavericks two days ago, but he'd been in Dallas for about a week before watching the team's home games and meeting with the other players.

For the time being, though, Yi will be playing alongside Sean Williams and former Utah Jazz center Greg Ostertag for the Texas Legends of the NBA Development League. The Legends' head coach Del Harris knows Yi very well, as Harris coached his Chinese National team to an eighth-place finish in the 2004 Summer Olympics in Athens.

On the same day as his signing, Yi earned a double-double in his first game for the Legends, scoring 17 points and grabbing 11 rebounds.

Rick Carlisle is unsure of when he will be called up to the Mavericks, but looks forward to what he can bring to the team.

After playing for three teams in his first four seasons in the NBA, the 24-year-old forward spent his time during the lockout playing in China for the Guangdong Southern Tigers, whom he played for during his teenage years before he came to the United States. Yi played well in three games for the Tigers, but was badly injured when a teammate fell on his leg during a game.

Unlike the unfortunate Denver Nuggets' players who are currently stuck in China until the end of their season, Yi was able to join the Mavericks because that rule does not apply to Chinese nationals.

Yi's actually been on Dallas' radar for years now, as general manager Donnie Nelson has good connections with China. In fact, The Mavs made history in 1999, when Wang Zhi-Zhi joined the team, becoming the first Chinese player to play in the NBA.

Yi was selected sixth overall just a few years ago, but has not lived up to expectations whatsoever.

Due to the outstanding scoring abilities and tremendous upside that Yi showed in China, NBA scouts were comparing his game to that of Dirk Nowitzki. Who knows? Maybe playing underneath Dirk and Lamar Odom could work wonders for the 6'10'' forward's offense.

With Yao Ming now retired from the NBA, Yi is the face of Chinese basketball, and could potentially bring the Dallas Mavericks a lot of new fans that they didn't have in seasons past.